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Civilian cargo plane intercepted by Belgian F-16s in Dutch airspace following bomb alert

Belgian F-16 fighter aircraft - Belga
09:31 18/05/2022

Two Belgian F-16 fighter planes escorted a civilian cargo plane over Netherlands airspace to its final destination of Liège airport following a bogus bomb alert on Tuesday evening.

A potential problem was reported while the aircraft was flying over Germany, approaching Dutch airspace, said the defence ministry in a statement.

The Boeing 777, originating from Hangzhou in China, landed shortly after 20.00 at Liège airport without any problems. Several hangars at Liège airport were evacuated before its landing.

A false bomb alert had been given by the aircraft company following rumours of threats against other Chinese aircraft on social networks, Liège airport’s spokesman Christian Delcourt told Belga agency.

The aircraft underwent an investigation by federal judicial police and the crisis unit of the General Directorate of Air Transport (DGTA) of the FPS Mobility. Federal police brought an explosives detection dog to inspect the plane and minesweepers were called in as a precaution.

"Federal authorities on scene are conducting a further investigation into the aircraft," said the defence ministry.

Initially alerted by Dutch air combat control, the two Belgian F-16s took off from the Florennes air base in Hainaut province. They flew over the Netherlands at supersonic speed - faster than sound - which may have given rise to a sonic boom noise, it added.

The defence department pointed out that the intervention of the fighter planes was part of the alternating surveillance of the Benelux airspace by Belgium and the Netherlands, which changes every four months. The two countries each have in turn two F-16s ready to take off at any time.

Photo: © Dirk Waem/Belga

Written by Sarah Crew